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All You Need to Know About Being a Wedding Guest


Written by Kaelyn Spickler

Your 20’s bring a lot of firsts and a lot of adulting moments. Moving away from home, starting a job, and/or getting married are all things people associate with the ten years following turning 20. Eyeing in on the getting married aspect, that also means attending weddings, and there’s a whole lot more to it than simply showing up. 


Deciding how formal to dress

The best way to judge the sophistication level of the wedding is from the invitation. Many invitations clearly say “casual,” “semi-formal,” “formal,” or “black-tie.” Casual means guys could wear jeans and a button-down while the gals put on a skirt or sundress. Semi-formal is synonymous to cocktail attire, so think about what you might wear to a business cocktail hour. Formal often is paired with semi-formal because there isn’t a huge difference with the two. Women, make sure you have on a nice dress, and men, don’t wear jeans. Black-tie is where it gets serious. Men, bring out the bow ties and tuxedos while women, be in search of an evening gown. If the invitation doesn’t say, you can likely gauge how formal the event is going to be based on how expensive the invitation looks. 



Make sure you pick something off of the registry. If you find what you are looking for at a cheaper place, make sure to go back to the registry and find the item you bought because there is an option to click “bought at a different location.” Something that will make your wedding guest adventure easier is if you go ahead and ship it to the bride and groom. This means one less thing you have to worry about grabbing as you rush out the door and that you won’t have to look around for a place to put gifts when you first arrive. 


Arrival time

You certainly don’t have to show up 30 minutes early, but if you care about where you sit or have a large number of people in your party, arrive 15-20 minutes early. If it’s just you and/or you and your date and you aren’t set on getting an aisle seat, 10 minutes early will do. 



Absolutely, positively do not take pictures of the bride walking down the aisle. That is why there are photographers at the wedding, and it will just make their pictures look tacky if there’s a bunch of phones in the background. Save taking pictures with/of the bride and groom until the reception. 


Cocktail hour

This is meant for mingling outside of the reception area while catering sets up. If you are alone, either hide out in the bathroom for 30-40 minutes, or put on your best social butterfly act and latch on to someone or a group. Learn to read social cues though in case they don’t want anything more other than a smile and nod. 


Small-talk conversations

For starters, just because someone is at a wedding, doesn’t mean they are in a relationship (editor’s note: I just went to a wedding and was blown away by how many times I was asked this question). Again, read social cues. If someone is at a wedding alone, they are likely not in a serious relationship and asking the question is either going to be a conversation-ender or put you in the position of having to hear how awful their most recent ex is or how confusing their current situationship is. Instead, ask them about school or their career, if they are local or where they are from, or what their family is up to or a certain friend you remember for 10th grade English class. You can also ask about how they know the bride or groom or pinpoint certain moments you loved about the ceremony. 


The reception

Quite frankly, everyone wants people to dance at their wedding because dancing shows people are having fun. Keep in mind the quote “if you dance you look silly, and if you sit there you look silly, so you might as well just dance” and hit the dance floor. Girls, don’t be the crazy girl fighting the other girls during the bouquet toss.